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Updated: Sunday, May 25, 2003 9:27 PM EDT
Chicago Cubs
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
7 11 0
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
3 6 1
W Zambrano (5-4)
L Miller (2-6)
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HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The Chicago Cubs are finding a way to get it done without their top offensive weapon.

Moises Alou had three hits and three RBI against his former team and Carlos Zambrano tossed 6 1/3 effective innings as the Cubs posted a 7-3 triumph over the Houston Astros in the finale of their three-game series.

With slugger Sammy Sosa sidelined since May 10 and not likely to return until late in the week, Chicago manager Dusty Baker has juggled his lineup in attempt to keep the team in first place in the Central Division.

"We are scoring the runs we need to in order to help out the starters," Baker said. "I can't say that we've surpassed any expectations (without Sosa). If we say that, then it sounds like that we didn't think we could do it."

"Everybody has just stepped up when we've needed them most (with Sosa out)," Chicago center fielder Corey Patterson said. "We've been looking after each other and that shows that we are all ready to win. When we get Sammy back, things will be even better."

On Sunday, he got production from the top of the order, and Alou delivered RBI singles in the third, fifth and seventh innings.

Zambrano (5-4) was the beneficiary of the early offense and won for the second time in three starts. He allowed three runs and five hits while struggling with his control, walking a season-high five batters.

"Zambrano struggled a little bit today, but he made the pitches when he had to," Baker said. "He made some key pitches."

"I did not have my good stuff today," Zambrano said. "I had to just go back to throwing quick strikes and hitting my spots. My fastball was a little off and I had to find a way to get outs, especially against a team like Houston. I made some key pitches in some tough situations and that helped."

Kyle Farnsworth followed Zambrano with 1 2/3 hitless innings before Mike Remlinger struck out two in the ninth.

Houston starter Wade Miller (2-6) could not build on Tuesday's solid effort, allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings.

He has just one win in his last four starts overall and lost to the Cubs for the first time since August 23, 2000, a span of five starts.

"His stuff is good," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "If his stuff wasn't good, I'd be more concerned. Maybe his location is a little off and he has had a high pitch count in some of his outings. Maybe that is not like him, but he's on the right track. He'll come around."

"I don't think I threw all that bad," Miller said. "It's not like they were hitting the ball hard. They just found the holes today and got a few key hits. I had the chances to get out of those innings and leave some guys on base, but I didn't make the pitch that I needed in those situations. I have a long way to go."

Chicago concluded a 13-game road trip with eight wins and has managed to hang on to the lead in the division.

"The Cubs are a team to contend with," Williams said. "They made that apparent. Not only are we aware of it, but so is the rest of the division."

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first on Jeff Kent 's single that scored Brian Hunter . But Miller gave back the lead in the second.

Miller walked Alou and Hee-Seop Choi on 3-2 pitches and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Miller struck out Alex Gonzalez but Lenny Harris delivered a key two-run single.

Choi just got in ahead of catcher Brad Ausmus ' tag and the Astros' backstop was ejected by plate umpire Mark Carlson for arguing the call.

Alou's two-out single in the third scored Tom Goodwin for a 3-1 lead.

Zambrano walked the first two batters in the fourth but Zambrano got a forceout and induced Gregg Zaun - playing for Ausmus - to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

Goodwin again got the Cubs going in the fifth. After drawing a walk to open the inning, Goodwin stole second. Mark Grudzielanek singled to put runners on the corners, and after Patterson popped out, Alou singled up the middle for a 4-1 lead. Choi struck out but Alex Gonzalez 's base hit put Chicago ahead by four.

An RBI single by Alou and a run-scoring groundout by Gonzalez - both in the seventh - extended the Cubs' lead to 7-1.

Geoff Blum had an RBI double in the seventh and was on third with one out when Baker replaced Zambrano with Farnsworth. The hard-throwing righthander allowed a run-scoring groundout but retired all five batters he faced.

Remlinger worked around a one-out double in the ninth.

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